Consultant contracts and working hours
Irish Medical Organisation

RTE Radio 1- Morning Ireland

PROGRAMME  Morning Ireland
SUBJECT Prof. Patrick Plunkett and Hospital Consultants contracts
STATION  RTE Radio One
DATE/TIME  8th September 2011
DURATION  6 Minutes 

The below is an extract from Prof. Patrick Plunkett's Morning Ireland interview with Cathal MacCoille, RTE, following an HSE announcement to change consultant work practices. 

CATHAL MAC COILLE:

 Now to this revelation by RTE’s Industry and Employment Correspondent Ingrid Miley, about the ongoing cost to the deal done fourteen years ago on hospital consultants contracts. 103 million euro is what the HSE says, a provision which allows over 400 consultants to take their last year of service off on full pay, will cost over the next decade and a half, and they want to change it. They also want to bring in other changes in consultants working practices.  The idea being that there would be a consultant present on duty on a five day a week basis that’s from 8am in the morning to 8pm on a working day and in a limited number of hospitals, as the HSE puts it, scheduled consultant presence on duty over the full 24 hour period to include anaesthesia, obstetrics and paediatrics and neonatology. Consultants participating also in the provision of on call and call out services.  Well that’s what the HSE wants to do, the language or the proposal from the HSE both in relation to the year off on full pay and also working hours by consultants is that the HSE is seeking the agreement of the medical unions to bring all these changes about.  With me now, one man who’s directly concerned, and also spokesperson for the Irish Medical Organisation Dr. Patrick Plunkett Consultant and Emergency Medicine.  Dr. Plunkett, good morning.

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:

Good morning.

CATHAL MAC COILLE:

So what’s your reaction?

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:

I’m just a little bit surprised that the HSE are banding about numbers of this order when it’s a gross fudge in fact.  The number of people who can take a full year’s rest day payment in essence is very limited and if they go out to 2027 as they’re suggesting well then they look like they’re including people who could only have a week or two because they only came into the contract back in ’97.

CATHAL MAC COILLE:
They say it’s over 400 consultants and the cost will be in the next decade and a half, to 2027, one hundred and three million euro.  Are you saying you doubt their figures?

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:
I very much doubt their figures; I’d like to see them in black and white.  There are a certain number of consultants who have a year, the vast majority don’t; they have less than that but even that was a pairing down from their entitlement. If I can give a personal explanation: in ’97 when this contract was negotiated I had been a consultant for ten years and in that time I had worked every single weekend when I was not on annual leave.  That meant I was entitled to two days off in lieu of those weekends but no pay, I could not be paid, I could only take leave but there was nobody else to cover when I was on leave.  So I had the equivalent of four years accumulated leave by the time this contract came.
 
CATHAL MAC COILLE:
So you and people like you settled for one, well in your case, in lieu of four…

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:
We had no option, we were given the option of either taking a year or give it all up, forget about it or stay on the old contract, keep cumulating days leave but stay on the old pay rate which would never rise.  So I signed on the very last day when I’d finally figured out it probably wasn’t in my best interest to say on the 1998 pay scale.

CATHAL MAC COILLE:
Well whatever about that, and that will obviously be part of the mix of the negotiations which the HSE is seeking, how do you respond to what? It won’t be news to you that they want to make consultants work more flexibly, longer hours not just through the working week but 24/7 in some areas in some hospitals as they say seven days a week? 

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:

But Cathal they already have this; they negotiated a contract three years ago.

CATHAL MAC COILLE:
Well if they had it they wouldn’t be looking for it.

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:
Well I’m terribly sorry but they have it, it’s in black and white in the contract from three years ago and it’s very simple and straight forward we agreed to an eight to eight working day, we do it, many of us do it.
 
CATHAL MAC COILLE:
What about 24/7 in the specialist areas and in a small number of hospitals where they say you’re talking about 24/7 is needed?

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:
 
Well I think that’s a complete change to the contract, if they want to try and negotiate a new contract then they should try and suggest that, not try and get in under Croke Park which doesn’t allow this sort of thing.  But we wouldn’t trust them on a new contract because I have a piece of paper that says a salary rate and I am being paid 24% less than that because they reneged on the contract that they agreed in 2008.  I wouldn’t trust them as far as I’d throw them Cathal.

CATHAL MAC COILLE:

This is very negative language, I mean you know we’re living in changed times and are we hearing from you, we’re not going to change anything we’re not going to do, we’re not going to have anything extra unless we get extra money is that what I’m hearing.

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:

Cathal we already have changed and you’re not hearing that actually, what you’re hearing is I don’t trust the HSE, HR apparatus, that’s what you’re hearing.
 
CATHAL MAC COILLE:

So are you open to the possibility which is what you know is coming of being asked to work more flexibly and to a degree, longer hours in some hospitals?
 
DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:
But we are working more flexibly.

CATHAL MAC COILLE:

That’s not my question, that’s not my question, compared to the present are you open…

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:

But it’s very clearly my answer, we are open we always have been open to flexible working.  Consultants are the most flexible workforce in the entire health service will come in, in the middle of the night and work and go home and come back in for a full days work the next day without extra pay.

CATHAL MAC COILLE:

Will you talk to the HSE about this?

DR. PATRICK PLUNKETT: IRISH MEDICAL ORGANISATION:

Do I have any choice, I’d be happy to talk to the HSE but I’d like to talk to somebody that I could trust.
 
CATHAL MAC COILLE

Dr. Patrick Plunkett, Spokesperson for the IMO, thank you very much for joining us.
 

IMO Membership

Start reaping the benefits of membership.

If you were previously a member of the IMO you can rejoin here.

Join nowRejoin here ›

Enquiries

Have a question?
Please get in touch with us and we will be happy to answer.

MAKE AN ENQUIRY